May 11th, 2017 by Sarah Sheehan
May 11th, 2017 by Ascet Digital
BUSHFIRE COMPENSATION EXPERTS LAUNCH CARWOOLA BUSHFIRE CLASS ACTION
The lawyers that have previously secured millions in compensation for bushfire victims have launched a class action on behalf of those affected by the 17 February 2017 Carwoola bushfire.
Regional Victorian firm Maddens Lawyers has issued proceedings in the New South Wales Supreme Court against Advanced Plumbing and Drains Pty Ltd, on behalf of residents and business owners burnt out by the Carwoola bushfire of 17 February this year.
The Carwoola bushfire burnt an area of approximately 3,500 hectares, destroying 11 houses and 45 outbuildings. A further 12 homes along with additional outbuildings were also badly damaged. The lawyer leading the class action has speculated a claim bill in excess of $15 million.
Madden’s Senior Partner Brendan Pendergast explained that the proceedings, issued in the New South Wales Supreme Court, allege the Carwoola fire started on private property in the course of an Advanced Plumbing employee undertaking work involving the use of a power cutting wheel that caused the discharge of sparks.
Mr Pendergast said that 17 February 2017 was a total fire ban day in the Carwoola region. “The conditions on the day were hot, dry and windy. The use of steel cutting equipment in these weather conditions, and on a rural property, carries with it a significant bushfire risk. Our preliminary inquiries indicate that appropriate precautions were not put in place to eliminate or reduce that risk.”
Mr Pendergast said the class action was a secure and low-risk means for the residents and businesses marred by the fire to claim funds their insurance policies did not cover.
“Maddens has extensive experience in representing bushfire victims. We are acutely aware of the emotional and economic impact a bushfire can have on people.”
“We’ve successfully settled class actions for four different communities that were burnt out during the Black Saturday bushfires of February 7 2009. We have also represented hundreds of bushfire victims impacted by the October 2013 Springwood/Winmalee bushfire and secured millions of dollars of compensation for losses that occurred as a result of that fire” he explained.
“Quite simply, Carwoola residents have suffered losses that are not their fault. They are losses that would not have occurred had the right procedures been followed. There is no reason these residents should sit back and just accept that this fire occurred, and accept the damage that it did.
“There is every reason for them to ask the question of what they are due, because it is what they deserve.”
Advanced Plumbing and Drains Pty Ltd have until 26 May 2017 to file a defence to the proceeding.
The firm has also issued a separate class action proceeding in the New South Wales Supreme Court arising out of the Tarago/Currandooley bushfire which commenced on 17 January 2017 and caused extensive property damage.
Mr Pendergast urged any residents or business owners interested in knowing the options available to Carwoola bushfire victims to contact Maddens Lawyers tollfree on 1800 139 290, or by registering online at maddenslawyers.com.au.
February 21st, 2017 by Maree Lane
MADDENS LAWYERS ISSUE CLASS ACTION FOR VICTIMS OF THE 17 JANUARY 2017 CURRANDOOLEY FIRE
Today Maddens Lawyers filed a class action against Infigen Energy Limited (Infigen) on behalf of land owners affected by the 17 January 2017 Currandooley Fire.
The fire was caused when a crow connected with overhead electrical infrastructure, caught alight and dropped into dry foliage underneath a powerline that transfers electricity from Infigen’s Woodlawn Windfarm to a substation at their Capital Wind Farm on the property known as Currandooley.
The fire burnt approximately 3,400 hectares completely destroying 1 residence, numerous sheds, hundreds of livestock as well as cars, fencing, trees and pasture.
The Statement of Claim Maddens have filed on behalf of lead plaintiffs Fred Kuhn and Liz Stewart of Mount Fairy alleges that Infigen was aware of the risk that a bird strike to its high voltage electrical infrastructure could cause a fire. It was aware of numerous previous similar incidents but failed to take appropriate steps to address the risk until after the fire.
The firm’s Class Action Principal, Brendan Pendergast, said “Infigen failed to exercise reasonable care and to address this very serious issue until after the fire.”
33 individual claimants from 22 fire affected properties have instructed Maddens Lawyers to seek compensation for their fire loss and damage. Maddens are aware of a further 6 properties which were fire affected but are yet to receive instructions from their owners.
Mr Pendergast explained that the matter has been referred the NSW Coroner and that Maddens Lawyers will seek leave to appear before the Coroner to represent the fire victims in the event that a full coronial inquiry is conducted.
Mr Pendergast who has attended several community meetings conducted at Tarago explained “there is a diversity of support for the presence of wind farms in the area amongst local landowners. The point here is the compelling fact whether you support the wind farms or not this fire could have been avoided by a simple and inexpensive design modification to the configuration of the lines and by institution of the fire mitigation steps that have now been completed post fire”. Mr Pendergast went on to say “it is regrettable that these simple steps were not taken sooner. If that had been done this fire would not have occurred.”
January 5th, 2017 by Maree Lane
JACK RIVER BUSHFIRE CLASS ACTION COMPLETE
The Jack River Bushfire Class Action has drawn to a close, with final compensation payments being made to all group members a day before the third anniversary of the fire.
Maddens Lawyers distributed more than $8 million in compensation cheques to over 30 registrants, covering the final compensation payment for loss and damage suffered in the February 9 2014 Jack River bushfire.
Maddens Lawyers launched the class action in September 2014, in response to the fire that earlier on 9 February that year burnt 5000 hectares between Jack River and Madalya, west of the Gippsland township of Yarram.
The fire started after trees clashed with a powerline north west of the Egans Road and Yarram-Morwell Road intersection on the morning of February 9.
The Supreme Court of Victoria approved the settlement at the end of 2016 and the distribution of compensation to those involved was completed on Wednesday 8 February 2017.
Registrants’ compensation covered more than 75% of their assessed loss and damage.
Maddens Lawyers Class Action Principal Brendan Pendergast said the mailing of the cheques marked the final stage of the Jack River 2015 Bushfire Class Action and that, in terms of legal action such as this, was an efficient and timely result.
“In the end, we were able to achieve a good result for the claimants, and secure as much compensation as possible for their loss.”
December 13th, 2016 by Maree Lane
COMPENSATION ON THE CARDS FOR FESTIVAL STAMPEDE VICTIMS
Injured and traumatised Falls Festival patrons left reeling after a stampede at the Lorne music event on 30 December last year may have grounds for compensation.
Maddens Lawyers, in Warrnambool, has been speaking with a number of festival patrons who were witness to, and caught up in the drama, which saw 19 people admitted to hospital and more than 60 people treated by on-site paramedics.
The firm is encouraging any other patrons left injured or traumatised by the incident to register their details with the firm as it investigates the details.
Maddens Lawyers Class Action principal Brendan Pendergast said early investigations pointed to site design being at the heart of the late-night catastrophe.
“Entrances and exits to the venue in question, barricades surrounding walkways, even the material on the walkways themselves… these were all conditions that were well outside the control of festival patrons.
“These revellers purchased their tickets to, and attended, the Falls event in good faith that their safety, health and wellbeing would be preserved,” Mr Pendergast said.
He urged anyone injured in, or traumatised by what happened in and outside the festival’s Grand Theatre tent on 30 December to contact Maddens Lawyers as soon as possible.
“Contacting us doesn’t instigate legal action, or mean that a patron has engaged a lawyer. It’s how we can assess the extent of the pain and suffering caused by this event, and the best grounds on which to pursue legal action and compensation on behalf of those affected.
“Registering isn’t necessarily a commitment to take action – at this early stage, it’s an excellent way to remain informed about the progress of our investigations and remain across what options are in relation to legal action and compensation,” Mr Pendergast explained.
“Registering with Maddens is free and it’s certainly not an obligation to take action – we see it as the best way for victims to be kept informed of the latest information.”
Maddens Lawyers has successfully represented hundreds of victims of bushfires across Victoria and New South Wales since 1983. This includes south west Victorians affected by the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires and, more recently, the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.
Mr Pendergast directed anyone affected by the Falls Festival stampede to visit maddenslawyers.com.au to register their details.
November 8th, 2016 by Maree Lane
MADDENS LAUNCH SCOTSBURN BUSHFIRE CLASS ACTION
The law firm that led four Black Saturday bushfire class actions has now launched a class action on behalf of victims of a Scotsburn fire that last year burnt more than 4000 hectares and 12 houses.
Maddens Lawyers Senior Partner and bushfire compensation expert Brendan Pendergast said his firm, which has successfully settled several bushfire-related class actions on behalf of hundreds of fire victims, was confident those who lost property in the 19 December 2015 fire had a strong case for compensation.
The 2015 Scotsburn fire broke out around 3pm on Saturday 19 December when a Finns Road paddock was being slashed by a local landowner. The Scotsburn resident, Roger Skimming, has since been convicted of failing to carry adequate fire-fighting equipment on the tractor he was using, which the court found could have suppressed the blaze before it took off.
Mr Pendergast said his firms’ investigations led them to believe fire victims had a strong case for compensation to cover uninsured losses. “Our early investigations, combined with our experience in bushfire litigation, tells us there is certainly a case worth pursuing,” Mr Pendergast said.
He encouraged any property owners who had been affected by the fire, via damage to property, pastures, fences, trees, livestock or otherwise, to contact the firm to register their interest in the class action. Mr Pendergast explained that by registering with Maddens Lawyers, fire victims would be kept up to date on the progress of the class action, and the investigations that formed part of the legal action.
“Registering isn’t necessarily a commitment to take action – at this early stage, it’s an excellent way to remain informed about the progress of the class action and remain across what their options are in relation to the litigation,” Mr Pendergast explained. “Registering with Maddens is free and it’s certainly not an obligation to take action – we see it as the best way for victims to be kept informed of the latest information.”
Mr Pendergast said the Warrnambool-based firm would be travelling to the Scotsburn area in coming weeks to run a public meeting to discuss the compensation claim.
“That will enable people to discuss the process and the general legal aspects of compensation claims,” Mr Pendergast explained.
Mr Pendergast clarified that a class action could be a lengthy process, from initial registration through to final payments post-trial, but added that his firm had achieved considerable success in the past. “For example, we are preparing to finalise compensation payments in a similar class action in the Gippsland region of Jack River, which has been three years between the date of the fire and final payments to burnt-out landowners,” he explained.
He encouraged anyone keen for more information about the class action process to contact Maddens Lawyers either online or toll free on 1800 815 228.
Maddens Lawyers, based in Warrnambool on Victoria’s South West Coast, successfully represented hundreds of regional landowners and businesses who lost property and business in four Black Saturday fires; Beechworth, in Victoria’s north east; Horsham and Coleraine, in the state’s far mid-west and Weerite, near Camperdown, in south west Victoria.
The firm is also involved in a number of additional bushfire class actions relating to other fires that have occurred more recently, such as Springwood in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney and the Mickleham-Kilmore Bushfire that burnt through Melbourne’s outskirts in February 2014.
July 1st, 2016 by Maree Lane
A south west law firm already has a register of more than two hundred sexual abuse victims likely to apply for compensation via the recently-announced institutional sexual abuse redress scheme.
The Federal Government has announced it will establish a dress scheme for victims of child institutional sexual abuse. The scheme was a key recommendation form the child sex abuse Royal Commission.
Maddens’ Personal Injury Law Specialist Gary Foster has been lobbying for more than 12 months for such a scheme. He already has a register of well over two hundred victims of sexual abuse – many from the south west – whose claims will name a variety of churches, schools and other institutions.
Mr Foster, who leads the firm’s Personal Injury department, said the redress scheme would be welcomed by thousands of victims across Australia, as it was likely to do away with a lot of the legal impediments and trauma associated with traditional avenues of compensation through the Courts.
“Victims have been through more than enough without having to get ‘beaten up’ in Courts by institutions seeking to protect their reputation or assets,” he said.
Anyone seeking to register for the redress scheme should contact Gary Foster at Maddens Lawyers, either by clicking here, or phoning 1800 815 228.
November 19th, 2015 by Maree Lane
Farmers are being reminded their casual, part time and full time farm workers were due a payrise from 1 July this year, under Fair Work Australia rules governing on-farm employment conditions.
Employment law expert Jane Blackburn, of Maddens Lawyers, explained that a mandatory payrise for farm employees was part of the Pastoral Award 2010, a Federal Award covering all farm employees. The Award automatically updates pay rates on 1 July every year, with pay determined by employee’s experience, qualifications and responsibilities.
“The saying is that nothing in life is certain, bar death and taxes… and you can add to that an increase in award pay rates,” Ms Blackburn said. “But it’s not something farmers can be flippant about. The scope of the Award is broad, the classifications it outlines are complex, the requirement to comply is absolute and the impact of not complying can be very expensive.”
Ms Blackburn explained the annual wage increase was set by the Fair Work Commission, and applied to a huge range of employees and farming enterprises. “Workers on a dairy farm. A piggery. Cattle or sheep. A cropping enterprise. Even beekeeping. It’s diverse and wide-reaching.
“Adding to this is that the classifications that determine what a worker is paid can also be quite prescriptive; they address an employee’s experience and qualification, but also what they do on the farm, if they provide any of their own equipment; even whether they have their own horse, or dog.
“The rates are based on a 38-hour-week average – and mandate that any hours over this must be paid as overtime. Part time or casual workers must be paid for shifts of at least three hours, even if they only work one or two and casuals must be paid loading.
“These are the areas where we continually see farmers caught out. And almost every time, the farmers think they are managing it by-the-book. It’s an indication of how complex the award is, rather than a reflection on how diligent local farmers are.”
Ms Blackburn said the onus on knowing and paying the correct wage rate always fell on the employer. And if classifications and pay rates weren’t up to date, any shortfall had to be met via back-payments, even if underpayment was unintentional.
“Farmers need to be careful they are complying at all times… because a lump sum back-payment is a harsh reality, and can’t be avoided. It doesn’t even matter if underpayment was accidental, or inadvertent. If the matter is taken to court, penalties can also be imposed on top of any back-payments.”
Having worked with many farmers over the past six years to ensure they were compliant and across the complex requirements of the Award, Ms Blackburn urged operators to consult with an experienced advisor to ensure they had their staff payments in-hand.
“Employers must be up to date on the current classification of their employees, and keep in mind this classification can change at any time, due to the employee’s past experience, or tenure in the industry. Even if the employee is still doing exactly the same as what they were doing the day or the week before; it’s not that the Award moves the goalposts. It’s that there is a lot of them, and it can be hard to know which ones to look for.
“Getting another perspective can be the difference between compliance – and peace of mind – and non-compliance, backpayments and a hefty fine.”
Looking for more information? Speak to Jane Blackburn, Maddens Lawyers’ Employment Law expert.
October 19th, 2015 by Maree Lane
NEW LAWS TO MAKE SPINAL INJURY COMPENSATION MORE ACCESSIBLE
Western Victoria’s most experienced personal injury lawyer has applauded pending new laws that will make it easier for spinal injury sufferers to claim compensation for their impairment.
The Victorian Parliament is due to enact the Wrongs Amendment Bill 2015, which will modify a range of inequities in Victoria’s personal injuries legislation.
Gary Foster, an Accredited personal injury law specialist with Maddens Lawyers, said the changes to the Victorian Wrongs Act included lifting what was known as the spinal injury ‘impairment threshold’, making it easier for people injured in a public place or due to medical negligence to meet criteria for compensation.
“Previously, the Wrongs Act dictated that a person with a spinal injury could only claim compensation for pain and suffering if their injury resulted in what was medically assessed as more than five per cent permanent physical impairment,” he explained.
Mr Foster said changing the legislation from ‘more than’ to ‘including’ five per cent was a much bigger deal than it may seem – and it would make compensation available to a large number of people who, previously, had to be told they didn’t qualify.
“The complexities of the compensation system mean the medical ‘rating’ of an impairment increases in five per cent increments – the impact of a spinal injury is determined as either five per cent impairment, or 10% impairment, or 15% and so on.
“Until now, the legislation has determined a person with a spinal injury had to suffer ‘greater than five per cent’ impairment – effectively, a person had to suffer 10% impairment to be eligible for compensation. It excluded a whole range of injuries – and people – even though these people’s injuries were considerable and debilitating.
“By changing the legislation to include ‘five per cent impairment or more’ – even though it might seem a small thing – will make a huge difference to a great number of people who, until now, have had to accept that, according to the law, their suffering is not significant.”
Mr Foster added that the changes also made improved provisions for people who had suffered psychological injuries, also making it easier for them to claim compensation from those at fault.
“These changes are effectively about removing red tape in relation to compensation claims and making it more straight forward for the injured person to claim compensation. Previously, the Wrongs Act limited entitlements – this goes some way to rectifying that.”
Mr Foster encouraged anyone who had been injured in a public place, or as a result of medical negligence – whether it be spinal, psychological or otherwise – to speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible, as the compensation process was governed by strict time limits.
June 13th, 2015 by Maree Lane
Property owners likely to lose land to the pending Horsham bypass should seek expert legal advice to ensure they receive full compensation for the land they will lose.
That’s the suggestion of Accredited Business Law specialist Erol Chakir, who has helped secure hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation for regional Victorian farmers whose land has been used for various infrastructure projects over the past 10 years.
Mr Chakir, a Principal with Maddens Lawyers, warned that the first offer usually put to landowners was rarely the best.
“My experience is it’s only when landowners know their rights and, based on advice from a lawyer, understand what they can ask for, that the maximum amount of compensation is secured,” he said.
“Those acquiring the land are always working to serve their own best interests, and will attempt to secure the land at he lowest price they can, rather than work for what is in the best interest of the landowner.
“But when a landowner has been represented by an experienced lawyer, who knows the process well, the end result is typically many thousands of dollars more for the property owner than had they gone alone.”
He said negotiating a contract for compulsory acquisition of land was a complex process that, despite what people may have seen on television, rarely favoured ‘David’ over ‘Goliath’.
“While the film, ‘The Castle’, is a great story, compulsory acquisitions rarely, if ever, finish like that one did,” Mr Chakir warned. “It’s a lot less entertaining, and much more complicated. There’s a lot of back and forth and the more you know about the process, the better you tend to fare.”
Mr Chakir, who is also western Victoria’s only Tax Law specialist, has worked with hundreds of regional Victorian landowners whose land is now home to an assortment of state or privately owned infrastructure. This includes wind turbines, gas pipelines and powerline easements, the expansion of the Princes Highway between Colac and Geelong and the expanded Hamilton airport.
“There are a lot of complexities in this process,” Mr Chakir explained. “Landowners may not realise what factors can influence how much compensation they are entitled to ask for, and receive. For example, the length of time someone has owned the land, and what other business they conduct on it, all comes into calculation.
“Advice from an experienced lawyer is a sensible first step that is likely to yield you more compensation than going it alone.”
He added that the cost of having a lawyer negotiate on a landowner’s behalf was also part of what could be claimed when negotiating a final price. “The compensation a landowner is paid will include legal costs,” he reasoned.
Mr Chakir stressed that landowners were free to handle the compulsory acquisition approaches as they wished – but the payoff of doing so was usually much less in dollar terms.
“It’s not something you MUST consult a lawyer for in order to finalise it,” he said. “But, as a lawyer who has overseen many of these types of situations, I can confidently offer that those who undertook the process with he support of an experienced lawyer gainedmore in compensation than what they would have received if they’d acted on their own.”
13 June 2015 –
The lawyers running a class action on behalf of hundreds of Blue Mountains October 2013 bushfire victims are on the cusp of launching a second class action; this one for victims of a second, smaller fire that burnt another part of the Blue Mountains on the same day.
Bushfire class action solicitors Maddens Lawyers, who will go to trial in February next year on behalf of Springwood-Winmalee bushfire victims, are now considering launching a similar action for those affected by a blaze that burnt through the nearby Mt Victoria area, also on 17 October 2013.
A public meeting to explain the firm’s plans, and fire victim’s options, will be held in Mt Victoria tomorrow evening (July 14, 2015).
Maddens Lawyers Class Action Principal Brendan Pendergast said nine houses were destroyed, and another 60 properties damaged by a fire that burnt through the Mt Victoria region in the vicinity of Mt York Road, St Georges Parade and Darling Causeway on 17 October 2013 – not far from where the Springwood-Winmalee blaze destroyed over 200 homes and damaged many more houses and businesses.
He said the impact of the Mt Victoria fire had been somewhat overshadowed by the sheer size of the Springwood-Winmalee devastation – but that early investigations suggested victims of the smaller fire had similar grounds to pursue compensation claims as their neighbours.
“Our investigations, at this stage, suggest that, similar to the Springwood-Winmalee fire, the Mt Victoria fire started when a tree fell on to a powerline in Mt York Road,” Mr Pendergast said.
“It is important that even though the Mt Victoria fire’s impact didn’t occupy as many headlines as the Springwood-Winmalee fire, the victims of this blaze are also represented when it comes to recovering their losses.”
Maddens Lawyers appeared at a recent Coronial Inquiry into the October 2013 fires that affected the Mt Victoria and Springwood/Winmalee residents. The hearing will continue in August.
Mr Pendergast said new evidence presented at the Coronial Inquiry into the October 2013 fires indicated those affected by the Mt Victoria also had grounds to sue for compensation.
Maddens Lawyers appeared at the June inquiry on behalf of a number of Springwood-Winmalee and Mt Victoria property owners, and will continue to appear on their behalf when it resumes next month.
Mr Pendergast said he was concerned by anecdotal evidence suggesting some of the Mt Victoria fire victims had left the local area and may not be aware of the coronial inquiry or the possibility of recovering compensation for their property loss and damage.
“Our enquiries to date suggest some of those that were burnt out in Mt Victoria have left the area, rather than face the challenge of rebuilding. Even if they haven’t continued to live locally, the victims of this fire are still likely to have a claim for compensation to recover what they lost – and need to let us know what that might be, sooner rather than later.”
Mr Pendergast explained that by registering with Maddens Lawyers, fire victims would be kept abreast of developments in investigations and legal action.
“Registering your interest ensures that you will be kept informed of our progress and any new developments in legal action regarding these fires,” he said. “Registration does not cost anything, and it doesn’t mean anyone is locked in to legal action if and when it goes ahead,” Mr Pendergast explained.
“What it provides is options and access to information. The option to take part, or, as the case develops, withdraw at will.
Affected by the Mount Victoria bushfire in October 2013? Contact us today